So far, "the year of the bike," as proclaimed by Salt Lake City, has taught us that sharing the road isn't always that easy. When it comes to traffic laws, half the time bicyclists are asking, "Am I allowed to do this?" So to clear up the confusion, here’s a list of answers to some common questions.
But, before we get to the rules: According to Detective Rick Wall of the Salt Lake City Police Department, while courts determine fines, a bike is considered a vehicle (41-6a-1102), which means riders can be subject to the same fines as motorists. For some expert advice, we asked Evelyn Tuddenham, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Utah Department of Transportation, and SLCPD Detective Veronica Montoya to answer our really dumb questions regarding the rules of sharing the road:
1. Can I ride my bike against traffic?
No! This may be shocking to some, but you have to ride in the same direction as traffic when you're on the road (41-6a-1105).
2. Do I need to signal if I am slowing down or stopping?
You probably should (41-6a-804). Bicyclists are "liable to get a ticket [for not signaling]. It's an important infraction, but not a major one police look for," says Tuddenham.
3. Can I make a left turn when stopped at a red light?
Yes. Cyclists and motorcyclists can make left turns at a red light ONLY after waiting 90 seconds and then checking if the intersection is clear (41-6a-305). This law is brand-spankin’ new and will only be in effect for one year. It’s a trial run, so if all goes well, it could be made permanent during the next legislative session.
4. Am I allowed to ride my bike on the sidewalk?
Yes. Bicycles are legal on the sidewalk in Salt Lake City, except for the Central Business District. (41-6a-1008) The Central Business District runs from North Temple to 500 South, and 400 West to 300 East. Basically, this means you can't ride your bike on downtown sidewalks -- unless you're a cop; they can ride wherever.
5. Can I carry stuff while I’m riding my bike, like a case of beer?
Yes. You just have to have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. (41-6a-1112)
6. Do speed limits apply to me?
You betcha. Bicyclists "have to follow all speed limits, because road bikes can easily go 30 miles per hour," Tuddenham says. "That can actually be a danger on [bike] trails."
7. If I’m stopped at a light waiting to go straight, should I move over for vehicles trying to make a right turn?
Yes. If bicyclists "are in their own lane, they definitely need to make sure to move over to the left side of the lane and allow those cars behind them to turn," Montoya says. "However, those cars do need to stop and make sure it is clear to turn."
8. Is "skitchin'" allowed?
No, "skitchin'" is not allowed. You should never attach yourself or your bike to any vehicles moving on the highway or road (41-6a-1104).
9. Can you get a DUI or DWI on a bike, even on weed?
It's possible. An SLC Police Officer "would have to see if you committed anything else, like if
you ran into the side of a car or collided with the back of a car or ran a
person over. There would have to be a primary offense to warrant looking into
a DUI or DWI," Montoya says.
10. If I wanted to, could I ride my bike on the freeway?
Well, kind of -- there are sections of the highways biicycles are not permitted on. "UDOT does not recommend bikes ride on the freeway, but if they are not in those [prohibited] areas, you will not get a
ticket. UHP may stop you and direct you to use an adjacent route, but you won’t
get a ticket," Tuddenham .
Check out UDOT's bicycle restriction map to find out exactly where are the restricted highway sections for bicycles.